PREVIEW: 2019 FIA Formula 2 Championship – Circuit de Monaco

by Aaron Gillard
Russell - ART - Monaco

Round 4 of the 2019 FIA Formula 2 Championship takes us to the Principality of Monaco, where the teams and drivers will take their greatest test of the season. The Circuit de Monaco has provided some classic F2 races and often some chaos into the mix. A fitting location for the next stage of the F2. Here’s what to look out for this weekend in Monaco:

WHAT HAPPENED LAST TIME OUT IN SPAIN?

The Feature race saw F2 championship leader Nicholas Latifi claim his third win of the season, but the Canadian driver had to fight for the win as UNI-Virtuosi Racing‘s Guanyu Zhou led majority of the race after a strong start. The Chinese driver led after the pit stop window, but Latifi used his experience and speed to find his way pass the Virtuosi driver for the win. Zhou was able to hold onto the podium position with third place as Campos Racing‘s Jack Aitken captured second place and continue his podium moment from the Baku round.

In the Sprint race, it was ART Grand Prix‘s Nyck de Vries who captured the win ahead of Luca Ghiotto. The Dutch driver got off the line well alongside BWT Arden‘s Anthoine Hubert. The two would squabble for the lead but it was de Vries who came out on top in the end. Ghiotto performed valiantly to take second place ahead of Sauber Junior Team‘s Callum Ilott, who started on reverse grid pole and performed well to take a spot on the podium.

You can find the race reports from Spain here: Feature | Sprint

Callum Ilott and Guanyu Zhou captured their first F2 podiums in Barcelona. Credit: Joe Portlock/LAT Images/FIA Formula 2

WHAT HAPPENED AT LAST YEAR’S ROUND IN MONACO?

Last year’s Monaco race produced a classic as the Feature race saw plenty of accidents and unusual results. For the second time, Artem Markelov for Russian Time secured victory around the Principality of Monaco. But the main highlight was how Markelov captured the win. Under the safety car, leaders Alexander Albon and Nyck de Vries collided into each other at the pit entrance, sending both cars out of the race. de Vries in the Prema took the traditional line into the pit entry at Monaco, whilst Albon dived in at the last second. The two clashed, sending Albon the wrong way round in the pit entrance. Both cars retired as a result. This allowed Markelov to take the lead and without trouble, land his second win of the season. Using the alternative strategies well, Prema’s Sean Gelael and MP Motorsport‘s Roberto Merhi captured a spot on the podium.

In the sprint race, Antonio Fuoco managed to hold off Carlin‘s Lando Norris from start to finish to take the win for Charouz Racing System. The Italian started on reverse grid pole and stayed in front throughout. Norris initially claimed second, but was handed a time penalty for going too fast under Virtual Safety Car conditions. He was demoted to third whilst Fuoco’s team-mate Louis Delétraz was promoted to second, making it a Charouz one-two.

You can read last year’s Monaco race reports here: Feature | Sprint

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR THIS WEEKEND?

Qualifying will be a vital session for the Monaco weekend due to its limitations on overtaking, but that doesn’t mean we have seen overtakes in the past. Due to the short length of the Monaco circuit, qualifying will be split into two groups: Odds and Evens drivers. A ballot will decide which group will go first in qualifying. The fastest driver overall out of the two groups will start on pole, with fastest from the other group going second. Third is then decided by second fastest from the pole sitters group, with fourth being given to the second fastest from the other group. The order repeats for each position until we have a full grid. In the last two years, the driver in Group A has gone on to claim pole position with Alexander Albon and Charles Leclerc. But Group B has often come out on top in the past. Traditionally, we have seen Odd cars go out first with the Even cars watching before they go out last.

Artem Markelov will make his return to Formula 2 this weekend with MP Motorsport. The 2017 F2 runner-up will drive in place for Jordan King, who will race at the Indy500 this Sunday. The Russian previously raced in F2 and GP2 between 2014 to his final season in 2018, where he collected nine wins with the Russian Time team. Markelov said that he will exit the series at the end of the 2018 season as he aims to make it into Formula 1. He currently races in the Super Formula series in Japan, but has decided to make a substitute appearance for the Dutch team MP. And it is a strong circuit to make a return to as Markelov has won around Monaco twice coming from the last three years. He captured his first ever GP2 win in the 2016 Feature race thanks to using the alternative strategy and with a little help from the Virtual Saftey Car. He repeated his winning efforts last year as leaders Alexander Albon and Nyck de Vries collided into one another at the pit entrance whilst under the safety car. This allowed Markelov to take the lead and eventually the win. Will he repeats his winning ways again? Who knows. It will take a few laps for the Russian to get back into rhythm with the F2 machinery, but no doubt he will be setting positive lap times when he feels comfortable.

Markelov - F2 - Monaco 2018

Artem Markelov will step in for Jordan King this weekend at Monaco. Credit: Zak Mauger/LAT Images/FIA Formula 2

Nicholas Latifi has taken three wins in the opening three rounds of the 2019 season. The Williams reserve driver claimed two Sprint race wins around Bahrain and Azerbaijan and a Feature race in Spain. The DAMS driver holds the lead of the championship with 93 points and hopes to continue his streak with a win around the streets of Monte-Carlo. It’ll be a huge challenge for the Canadian however, with his best result around Monaco being eighth place in last year’s Sprint race. He has a healthy points gap away from second place Luca Ghiotto with 26 points only separating them, but Latifi will need to surpass his best result to keep his healthy points margin going past the quarter stage of the season.

At the last two rounds, Sauber Junior Team have made an appearance on the podium in the Sprint races. Juan Manuel Correa and Callum Ilott have stepped onto the podium for the first time in the F2 careers and have brought home strong points finishes for the Sauber team. Once known as Charouz Racing System, the team has made an impressive start to the season and now head to a circuit where they tasted their best result in their short F2 career. Last year saw Charouz drivers Fuoco and Delétraz claim a one-two finish in the Sprint race, their best ever result in the series so far. The team continued their strong performances with occasional podium finishes and winning the last race of the season in Abu Dhabi, rounding off a sixth place finish in the teams’ standings. Now, Correa and Ilott will be hoping they can replicate the results from last year’s weekend and continue to bring home points for Sauber. It will be a tough challenge as the two drivers will tackle Monaco for the first time in their careers.

Guanyu Zhou made a strong impression around Barcelona, claiming his first ever F2 podium in only his fifth race. The Chinese driver showed promising form in pre-season testing and at the season opener in Bahrain, but couldn’t find that extra step into making a trip to the rostrum. But Zhou managed to get himself into great position in qualifying, setting the third best time behind Latifi and team-mate Ghiotto. In the run towards Turn 1, Zhou stormed off the line and took the lead of the race. He remained there throughout the early stages and beyond the pit stop window. But the Chinese driver couldn’t hold the lead much longer as the experienced Latifi and Aikten soon found their way pass for first and second. But Zhou managed to keep his car together and take home third place, his first trip to the podium. Now heading into Monaco, Zhou will be hoping to repeat his performances there and continue the strong run of form both himself and Virtuosi are having.

Louis Delétraz will be hoping to make a bounce back at Monaco, after failing to score in both Baku and Barcelona rounds. After a promising start to the season, Carlin and Delétraz suffered a shaky round as double retirements in Azerbaijan continued to no points in Barcelona. Delétraz suffered multiple mechanical issues during practice which hindered his running and track time around the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. His race pace wasn’t up to the level we saw in Bahrain and could only manage twelve and eleventh. This weekend needs to be a turn around for both Delétraz and Carlin, as they were the only team to leave Barcelona with no points. Last year’s team champions are down in ninth, a disaster from the showing in 2018. With the next round in Monaco, Delétraz can be hopeful of a great result having scored twice here last year, including a second place in the Sprint race. A breakthrough result for the Rich Energy Haas simulator driver might kick start his season again and put his British team back onto form.

Deletraz - Carlin - F2

Louis Deletraz will be hoping to get his season going again after 0 points in Barcelona. Credit: Joe Portlock/LAT Images/FIA Formula 2

WHAT IS THE SCHEDULE THIS WEEKEND?

The schedule for the F2 weekend in Monaco is unusual as they will start their running on Thursday compare to Friday. It’s similar to F1, but they will have their Feature race on the Friday where F1 will have its day off. Saturday will host the Sprint race straight after F1 qualifying.

THURSDAY 23TH MAY

Practice: 8:15AM (UK Time)/9:15AM (Monaco Time)
Qualifying (Group A) : 12:20PM (UK Time)/1:20PM (Monaco Time)
Qualifying (Group B) : 12:44PM (UK Time/1:44PM (Monaco Time)

FRIDAY 24TH MAY

Feature Race: 10:30AM (UK Time)/11:30AM (Monaco Time)

SATURDAY 25TH MAY

Sprint Race: 4:15PM (UK Time)/5:15PM (Monaco Time)

WHERE CAN I WATCH FIA FORMULA 2 THIS WEEKEND?

You can watch the session lives from the FIA Formula 2 championship on Sky Sports F1 throughout the weekend in the UK and Ireland. Re-runs of the races will be shown over the week.

HOW CAN I KEEP UP WITH ALL OF THE NEWS OVER THE WEEKEND?

The Checkered Flag will provide the latest news and updates from 2019 FIA Formula 2 Championship this weekend and throughout the season.

Latifi - DAMS - F2 Monaco 2

Can DAMS’ Nicholas Latifi make it 4 wins in four rounds? Credit: Zah Mauger/LAT Images/FIA Formula 2

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